Onboarding Salespeople for Fun & Profit

Getting your new salesperson started off on the right foot is an important part of them having fun and you making even more profit.

A while ago I  did another of my gems of wisdom titled The New Hire "“ Doing It Right where I provided an outline of the sales-related items that a new hire needs to know if you are to get the biggest bang for your hiring buck.

Some of you are old enough to remember when it was prudent to break in the engine on your new vehicle if you were to get the best from it over the long haul. It’s the same when breaking in a new salesperson. There are a number of things you can do that will help you get the best from the new kid on the block. My earlier article covers some of them and this article will give even more food for thought.

Why Bother?

It’s not like you’re not busy enough. I understand that. I also realize that when you hire a salesperson, you are making a sizable investment and you want to get a good ROI. Bringing your new hire up to speed as quickly as possible can add real dollars to your bottom line.

Let me put it another way for emphasis: If you don’t get the new hire up to speed quickly, you stand the danger of throwing hard cash out the door. I’ll explain why I feel that way.

Let’s assume your typical salesperson brings in $50K of gross margin a month and it takes a new salesperson five months to reach that productivity level. Let’s also assume that with the proper onboarding in place, you’ll be able to get the new salesperson off the mark more quickly and get her to reach full productivity a month earlier.

Onboarding Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Totals
Not Done $5,000 $15,000 $30,000 $40,000 $50,000 $140,000
Done $10,000 $20,000 $35,000 $50,000 $50,000 $165,000
Difference $25,000

A quick review of the table shows $25,000 worth of reasons why you should bother to onboard your salespeople properly.

The 3-Legged Onboarding Stool

A new salesperson requires orientation and training (onboarding) in three areas:

1.       Company policies and procedures
2.       Product knowledge
3.       Sales training

Company policies, while usually dry as the Sahara Desert, are the new person’s roadmap through the corporate quagmire and needs to be tackled sometime, but not today. I’ve already given you the information you need to know about sales training orientation in the article I mentioned earlier,

What’s left is the topic of product knowledge. And that’s what the rest of this article is about "“ the things you need to tell your new salesperson about what she is to sell.

Knowledge about Product Knowledge

Product knowledge can be broken down into two broad categories:

  • the products themselves
  • the product lines in general

Of course, the term "product" is interchangeable with the word "service," depending on what you are selling. When explaining the product lines, here’s your checklist of some things to cover:

Profitability

  • Which product lines or specific products are most profitable to the company?
  • How do I handle low-margin products?
  • Which products should I emphasize (push)?
  • Which products should I downplay (why)?

While there are always exceptions to the rule, companies usually want their salespeople to concentrate on those sales that will bring in the most revenue. Your salespeople, on the other hand, will want to work on those sales that have the highest personal return (commission) for the least effort.

Product history

  • What is the background behind the product?
  • What is the history of the company’s relationship with the supplier?

Product future

  • How does this product fit into the company’s future plans?
  • What are some of the follow-on products that are coming along?

The more the salesperson understands about what she’s selling, the better she sells it.

Price lists

  • How do I read and use current price lists?
  • What gets shown or not shown to customers?

In terms of the products themselves, your new salesperson will want to know:

Benefits

  • Are there feature/benefit sheets for the products?
  • Why should customers buy the product?
  • What are some of the exclusive selling features (if any) of the product?

Availability

  • What are the normal delivery times?
  • How reliable is delivery information?

Reliability

  • What has the service history been?
  • What should I be careful of?
  • Where shouldn’t I sell the product?

Competition

  • Who are our major competitors?
  • How are we different from or better than our competitors?
  • Are there any competitive product/service comparison charts?

Be honest here. If you have some dogs in your product line ­up (a dog is a product that you have trouble giving away, let alone selling), alert the new salesperson to this fact and show her how to get around the potential problems. Don’t let the new salesperson find out about a dog from a customer or, even worse, a competitor.

The Bottom Line

When your newly onboarded salesperson finally hits the streets, full of enthusiasm, you want her to not only know your products, but understand them as well. You want her to know why your prospect should buy.

With any luck, your onboarding efforts will pay off big time and you won’t be offboarding anyone anytime soon.

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